By John Burns
Polarization is all over the news lately; there seems to be plenty of hate in many of the good people on both sides for the people on the other side, as the Black Lives Matter discussion – among other hot-button topics – continues to swirl. And there’s never been any better topic on MO, if the goal is to stir the pot, than Harley-Davidson. Saaay, why not combine the two?
When a MO reader, and aspiring MO contributor, approached us the other day with an idea for a story about Harley in the AMF days (mid 1970s), he reminded me of some things I’d put out of my mind long ago. As Harley struggles to reinvent itself (it was struggling for a while there until Matt Levatich got canned, anyway), this reader was interested in exploring a story about another time Harley wanted to go in a different direction. That would be the Project Nova road H-D started down nearly 50 years ago – a radical new direction for the company that would involve building a bunch of V-twin, V-four, and V-six modular engine powered motorcycles, with help from Porsche. Word is a V-4 touring model was the most completely developed Nova, with 130 fuel-injected horsepower, radiators fed by cooling ducts hidden under its bodywork, under-seat gas tank, shaft drive – all at a time when the Honda Goldwing was still kind of a big weird sportbike.
Obviously project Nova never happened, though this mock-up is proudly on display in the H-D Museum in Milwaukee. What happened instead is Willie G. Davidson and some others engineered a buyout of his namesake company back from AMF.